Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Review - Games Weekly

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Review

Hello, operator? We’d like to be put through to a merciless, Florida-based triggerman… preferably one caked in blood, with a dead pig for a face. Yes, we’ll hold. Will a collection of rabid fanboys, all tooled to the nines and wearing ridiculous animal masks, do instead, you ask? Hmm, well as long as you promise they’ll star in a fiendishly violent, irresistibly addictive indie sequel that involves shish kebabing armies of goons with broken shards of glass and 12 gauge shotguns. You can? Wonderful.  It’s time for more acceptably ’80s top-down stealth slaughter.

Firstly, a warning. Don’t ever play Hotline miami 2 if you’re in the middle of something. Waiting for the kettle to boil? That cuppa is never getting drunk. Just popped Wrong Number in for five minutes before bed? Prepare to hit the hay some time around 4:47am. Oh, you fancy a quick level while your pizza cooks? We hope you like the taste of blackened pepperoni. make no mistake: when Wrong Number gets its hooks into you, you’re done.

This is a game of ferocious intent. Like the original Hotline miami, you’re in for an experience of exacting muscle memory, salacious slatherings of gore, and the coolest damn soundtrack you ever did hear. There’s something wonderfully forceful about its brand of top-down sneaky combat. This isn’t a game that asks for your time or attention. No. Instead, it just takes it in a whirlwind of repeating cycles of chaos, decapitations, and enough viscera-smeared pastel suits to make Crockett and Tubbs weep hysterically into their slip-ons.
“You’re in for an experience of exacting muscle memory, gore, and a damn cool soundtrack”
Follow Through
Been trapped down a well since late 2012? allow us to catch you up. Hotline miami 2 carries on the proud, ultra-stabby lineage of its predecessor in a viciously demanding blend of 2D hiding, shooting, and the odd curb stomp or 50. It’s metal Gear before it went Solid; imagined by a version of Hideo Kojima who’d rather listen to ’80s synthpop and watch Snake kick in someone’s windpipe than prattle on about the existential futility of fate over a 25-minute Codec call. 

Not that Wrong Number doesn’t also enjoy the odd stylish cutscene. Indeed, this sequel shoulders a far broader narrative than its predecessor. Rather than following one gun for hire as he accepts hits from mysterious criminal figures, developer Dennaton decides to take on a much grander tale. as such, you find yourself constantly switching between different factions. a hard-nosed, slightly bent detective. a group of aspiring killers who all want to make the papers while pulling off massacres that would make even original antihero Jacket hurl. a journalist trying to track down a serial killer. Hell, you even get whisked between the mid-1980s and early ’90s as the action hops to a unit of soldiers slaughtering militia in Hawaiian jungles. The criss-crossing plot clearly has a crush on the likes of Pulp Fiction, but it’s a shame the overly ambitious story lacks the killer focus of the first murderous jaunt to the magic City.

Not that the bloated, if still interesting, plot affects the action in any meaningful way. If you’ve already slaughtered half of Ocean Drive with Jacket, you’ll be well prepared for the meat and bloodied potatoes of all the sneaky slaughter. Indeed, Wrong Number actually plays things kinda safe in pure gameplay terms. You still enter hotels and apartments, clearing out rooms of gunmen and attack dogs with a little pixelated killer. and you can very much still expect to enjoy an average lifespan of around 34 seconds. If you’re lucky.

Die, die, die again
Death constantly cloaks your progress. No matter how much you master stunning dudes with doors or popping your head around the corner to lure an enemy, the flashing neon restart is never far away. Die. Regroup. Die. Regroup with a bunch of swear words. Die. Change your strategy. Die. Tweak said strategy a smidge. Kill every last enemy in a level…oh you didn’t see the Doberman lurking down that last hall? Start over, kid.
“The locations the game spans are a hell of a lot more varied than the original hotline”
How stacked is this delicious death sundae? Well, there’s a certain stage about two-thirds of the way through the game’s 20+ scenes there’s a distinctly meta directorial vibe throughout that took us about 40 tries. If we sound rubbish, see how you do with a ship deck brimming with dastards, where every second guy either has an assault rifle, a doggy chum, or a supersized bodyguard who’s impervious to melee attacks.

To help even the horribly unfair odds, certain stages give you a variety of masks to pick from. It’s the same deal as last time out: each face covering rocks its own special ability to help you gain an advantage. For example, the zebra is decidedly nippy, with said agility stretching to vaulting through windows to provide multiple entry points to certain rooms.

Things get even more interesting with the behemoth who dresses like a bear and dabbles in dual machine guns. Then there’s the swan siblings who bond over maiming with a chainsaw. and who could forget the Tony the tiger dude (wahey!) who lays a one-hit-kill, stripey smackdown on anything his death fists touch. Safe to say, it’s a little bit of a comedown when the game forces you to play as a cop or a bizarrely lethal struggling author who both miss out on the masked mayhem.

As before, level layouts are immaculate, each one a deviously designed labyrinth where every turn poses a life or death puzzle. Do you barge into a room guarded by three dudes with shotties and hope to outgun them, knowing your first shot will alert anyone within 100-feet? Or perhaps you’d rather go for the subtle long game, where every silent knife or baseball bat takedown must be earned through precise, darting movement. There’s never a ‘right’ way to finish any scenario, and only dozens of failed attempts will train up your digits for that one magic run.

The number of locations the game spans is also one hell of a lot more varied than the original Hotline. Where previously you were restricted to seedy clubs and motels, now the whole of miami is open to your killers. alright, so we’re not in sandbox territory this is still very much a linear game where you play through a series of tightly designed mazes but Wrong Number does span the city’s courtrooms, subway system, shady military organisations, and even a maximum security prison. Be a dear and pass us a shiv, eh?

On the level 
In a game that often rewards boldness, there’s no better partner to gear you up than Wrong Number’s sensational score. If the first title was a screeching ode to cutting ’80s beats, then the sequel simply cranks up the volume until you ear canals start to ooze electronica. It’s like having the soundtrack to Drive injected into your lobes all over again. Often pulsating, the hypnotic beats give you the courage
to storm into fights even when you’re hopelessly outnumbered. an ear-arousing triumph all round.

It is not, sadly, always a triumph of control. For a game of such unrelenting challenge, the fact the target assist is reliable as a melted chocolate watch can be truly agonising. Switching your reticule to flick between targets is a lottery where every ticket screws you with a bullet to the brain. Look, we just want to aim at that nasty man 15-feet in front of… annnnd you’ve made us look at his off-screen chum. annnnnd we’re dead. again. That a game of exacting precision lays such a shonky tool at your feet is a glaring oversight.

Such control woes aren’t in any way a death blow. For one, aiming manually with the stick rarely lets you down. more importantly, this is simply too stylish a concoction of nostalgic sights, sounds and supreme stealth to allow a botched aim assist or a confused plot ruin a gory house party that’d make Tony montana proud. Often frenzied, always punishing, never boring: Wrong Number is all kinds of miami nice.


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